- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

Take a good look at your child’s personality and interests before committing to a season of intense practices or a high-pressure coach. A good match may mean a greater chance of a child sticking with an activity for a season — or a lifetime.

In other words, everyone in the neighborhood may be playing soccer, but if your child hates soccer and wants to be on the diving team instead, by all means look into that, says Stacy DeBroff, author of the book “Sign Me Up! The Parents’ Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, Music Lessons, Dance Classes, and Other Extracurriculars.”

Ms. DeBroff says there are two types of children: the whirling dervishes and the couch potatoes. The whirling dervishes are naturally in constant motion and usually like sports and dance. The couch potatoes may gravitate toward more sedentary activities, but it is still important to expose them to more active ones to help them stay healthy and fit.

“Recess is short these days, and physical education at school doesn’t count,” she says. “Kids should get physical activity. It doesn’t have to be organized, but it should be active. It should be a parents’ job to make sure they are getting exercise and social interaction.

“Oftentimes what happens is a kid wants to quit when he tries what the ‘in’ crowd is doing,” she says. “Sometimes you need to sit back and say, ‘That is fine for the in crowd; now we need to find something else.’”

For instance, a quieter child may gain social interaction from being in an art class, foreign language class or chess club. Some offbeat physical activities for nonathletic children could be rock climbing, martial arts or fencing.

Lena Barsky, 11, takes clarinet lessons at Levine School of Music in the District.

“It is really fun,” says Lena, an Arlington sixth-grader who also has been playing piano for several years. “Piano is more of a solo thing. In clarinet, you can sometimes play with a band. You can play a high range on it, which is motivating and fun. I don’t always enjoy practicing, but I got into an honors band, and I was really happy.”

Lena balances out the discipline of music by playing on a soccer team in the fall and spring. She plays on a recreational league team, which is less rigid than a travel team, says her mother, Patty Petroccione. Lena has been playing with the same girls for a few years.

“I have to say Lena has stuck with things,” Ms. Petroccione says. “It hasn’t come up to totally dropping any of them. But if she wanted to drop soccer, we would have to find another sport because we want that balance.

“Lena took a break from piano over the summer,” she says. “She was saying she didn’t feel like taking her lesson recently, and we talked about how much I love hearing her play the piano, but [I] offered to discuss dropping it. Lena’s response was ‘no way.’”

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